Newsletter December 2007
8 th November 2007
Today is one of the biggest holidays of the year, Deepavali. In the distance one hears the regular bursting of fire crackers as people in the nearby villages celebrate this festival of Light. Here the site is exceptionally silent, the Matrimandir stands very quietly in this unusual pause in the multifarious activities of the day- to-day construction.
It is 1 p.m. , and in the gardens there are just a few people enjoying the shade under the branches of the Banyan tree. Nearby, the half-moon shaped flower beds in the garden of Unity are filled with masses of flowers in shades ranging from deep purple to light pink to white. These flowers have been given the meaning “Sri Aurobindo's Compassion” by the Mother, one of several hundred varieties of flowers that She named. Next to these islands of color is the 12 m-wide circular pool that will form the centerpiece of this garden when it is complete. A curved set of stone steps forming a mini–amphitheater is being constructed on one side of the pool. And as a strong visual element there will be a 6 m long cascade of water sloping from the top of this amphitheater towards the pool. The pool has been planted with varieties of lotus and five magnificent water lilies of different colors as a temporary measure of beautification until the completion of the stonework. One group of lotuses has huge deep pink blooms, this particular one being a completely new hybrid created last year in our own nursery.
Sketch of the mini-amphitheatre and pool in the Garden of Unity
Moving around the Matrimandir along the path on the outer ring of petals, one finds a new garden feature - a display, in each of the gardens, of the flower that was specifically chosen by the Mother in 1971-72 to be its principal flower. Ten of these are Hibiscus, and the other two are Plumeria, which Mother named “Psychological Perfection”, for the garden of Perfection , and the water lily for the garden of Wealth . The Mother's names for the ten hibiscus selected are wonderful to contemplate: Psychic Power in Existence, Supramental Consciousness, Ananda, Light of the Purified Power, Power of Consciousness, Aesthetic power, Usefulness of the new Creation ( which carries the dual name of ‘Usefulness of Auroville'), Power to Progress, Beauty of Supramental Youth, and Power of Harmony.
Around these key flowers the gardens of the Matrimandir will grow up over the months and years to come. Each garden will gradually come to express the significance given to it by the Mother, as garden designers catch the threads of inspiration that will lead them closer to what She intended. It will be a privilege indeed to witness this process unfolding, the unveiling of a setting that the Mother once described in these words “It must be a thing of great beauty, of such a beauty that when men enter they will say, ‘Ah, this is it', and they will know physically and concretely the significance of each garden. In the garden of Youth they will know youth, in the garden of Bliss they will know bliss, and so forth.” ***
Standing again near the Banyan tree, one can see a small tree-shaded rise of land just outside the Oval on the southern side of Matrimandir. This area is being prepared as the new “viewing point”, where day visitors will be able to see the whole Matrimandir project, including the Amphitheater, the Banyan tree and the sphere of Matrimandir from quite close by. The viewing has taken place at the edge of the Amphitheater until now, but with the development of the outer edges of the gardens and the concreting of new pathways in progress in the Amphitheater area, it is time to shift the viewing point to a new location. Information panels in various languages will be on display there, and a guide will be present to explain and answer some of the visitors questions. The people who make the 12-minute walk from the Visitors Center to this viewing point may have already seen a short introductory video on Matrimandir, but to see the actual building in its park-like setting usually brings a flood of questions, some of them difficult to answer in the space of a few minutes!
One of the main doors of Matrimandir being clad with gold-glass tiles
The silence here today is in sharp contrast to the whole orchestra of sounds coming from the different corners of the site on a normal working day. Even with eyes closed you can follow the flow of work on the site! From the top of the building come the sounds of drilling and chain pulleys as the elements of the stainless steel maintenance crane are assembled. (We did not manage to get it all done before the monsoon!) From lower down on the Matrimandir come the sounds of the scaffolding team in action, making modifications in the pipe and plank platforms for the team fixing the gilded panels and discs on the entrance shields. The shield teams themselves are quite quiet, as they are working with delicate panels of gold-glass tiles and have to be careful not to damage them by a careless movement. Nearby, the activities in the metal workshops can be heard as grinders, metal saws and hammers are used to fashion elements for the Matrimandir main doors or legs for some of the discs yet to be mounted on the lower surface of the globe.
In the gardens there is often the loud roar of the JCB's – the earth movers, busy shifting soil and compost in the gardens, or finalizing the contouring of the garden areas near the Amphitheater. Working with the JCB's two or three tractors can be heard laboring as they pull trailer-loads of red soil or compost to different places in the compound, giving final touches to the contouring or preparing the soil for the planting of the final areas of grass on the edges of the gardens.
We hear too the high pitched whine of the stone-cutting machines, either small hand-held ones or sometimes the big table-mounted edge trimmers, as slabs of red sandstone are cut and trimmed for laying the new plaza being built to link the broad pathway on the West axis to the Amphitheater and thus facilitate movement between these two points.
And, finally, the distant ringing of an improvised bell will reach everyone's ears, signaling the close of the working day.
* * *
At the western end of the Oval, the re-contouring of the red soil has recently been completed, and much of the area has been covered with 20 cm of topsoil and compost for grass planting. In the minds and hearts of those who have worked to build the Matrimandir in its early years, a walk through this area will bring back a flood of memories, for this was once the location of the “Matrimandir Worker's Camp”.
Built in 1971, when the whole area was a dusty red plateau, the Camp had some 20 adjoining rooms, all covered by a large rambling thatch roof. Those were wonderful times indeed for the residents of the Camp! In the morning you would meet your neighbors in one of the two areas in the Camp that served as common washing facilities for the whole group. What better way to start the day with your fellow workers than by brushing your teeth together and sharing the shaving mirror! Then there was breakfast in a common dining area and off to work on the structure just a few hundred meters away.
Perhaps a few hundred people in all lived in the Camp over its 25 years of existence. Those who had the good fortune to have the Matrimandir workers camp as their home will always treasure the months or years that they spent there, with their energy focused on the work of building Matrimandir. In the evenings there were shared duties in the common kitchen, if it was one's turn, and for the rest, no TV's, videos or cell phones to distract one, just friends, books and the wide canopy of brilliant stars overhead.
Since the last occupants moved out at the end of the 90's and relocated to other houses in Auroville, the area has been totally transformed, with all the brick foundations having been removed and the land reshaped to blend in with the contours of the future gardens.
Masons at work on the plaza near the Amphitheatre
November 24 th , 2007
On the eastern end of the same axis, another relocation operation has just been completed. The large building housing our general stockroom was jutting out several meters into the garden of ‘Existence'. With the push on now to complete the Oval road that defines the outer edge of the gardens and to finish contouring the garden of ‘Existence', it became necessary to remove this last bit of structure. The building had to be cut in half to do this! Preparations had been on for weeks as material and personnel were shifted to their new locations in other parts of this same building. In November the removal of the roof on that part of the structure began in earnest, and on the 24 th the earthmover began to level the last section of the Oval road. Finally we will shape this garden of ‘Existence' and install the irrigation system here, so that the infrastructure for this garden can be fully prepared as has been done in the rest of the gardens. Then the next phase of the work can start -- wherein flowers will arrive, along with special stones, perhaps sculptures too, and pools and waterways will be introduced -- all contributing to the expression of the different atmosphere each garden calls for.
Noise reduction in Matrimandir
An interesting exercise has been going on in Matrimandir over the last few months.
This is the effort to reduce, or eliminate, all the various noises which one might hear while inside the completed building, especially in the Inner Chamber. In Mother's descriptions of the Chamber, the importance of silence was emphasized repeatedly.
The process began by making precise measurements of the various types of sounds audible at two different locations inside Matrimandir - one inside the Chamber and the other on the second level where the ramps begin. Professional sound recording and analyzing equipment was set up by an Aurovilian who is highly skilled in this field.
It was fascinating to watch the computer screen recording the full spectrum of sounds from each separate noise source as they were turned on and off one by one. These sources include such items as the fans and compressors of the AC system, the battery power supplies sending current to the inner skin lights and heliostat on the roof, ventilations fans for the second level, the pumps that supply the fountains in the four main ribs, and the motors that drive the movement of the main doors in the pillars. Once we had a clear picture of the varying degrees of these sounds we began to tackle them one by one with the goal of achieving a perfect silence. Normally you might not notice these various hums and engine throbs, but if you focus your attention on them, then the difference in the noise levels when they are running or silent is quite striking. Thus the elimination or reduction of these noises will surely increase the quality of the silence in the Matrimandir.
For the rib fountains, one of the pumps was enclosed in a sound-proof box and this resulted in a considerable reduction of the pump sound. For the air-conditioning system, initial trials to improve the sound situation have yielded some reduction, but a lot remains to be done here. And for the two large humming power supplies with battery banks (for the inner skin and heliostat) the solution was simple: to remove them entirely from the building and place them instead in the underground rooms of the Amphitheater, then send their power in over long cables! This latter exercise was completed on November 16 th , resulting in the elimination of two significant sources of noise within the building. The work will go on, mostly behind the scenes, so to speak, and you may not even notice the Matrimandir getting quieter and quieter in the months to come!
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